Selecting the right college can be frustrating, and even cause anxiety for many families. Some kids will start thinking about their dream college as a freshman in high school, some will take a "wait and see" approach, while others will just simply wait till the last minute hoping to "get recruited" before they consider which college is right for them.
To help families and student-athletes take a proactive approach here are a few things that will hopefully make the process more enjoyable and less frustrating.
For those who started planning early on, kids will change their mind for a number of reasons by their senior year of high school. Some will want to follow their friends and will choose the same college, while other students will say they have found “true love” and will feel pressure to attend a certain college based on their boyfriend or girlfriend.
First -- if you are a student-athlete reading this article in your senior year of high school and you have a boyfriend or girlfriend -- dump 'em. Yes, that is right -- the last thing you need is pressure from someone as you try to focus on college.
This is your time focus on your dreams and goals and the last thing you need is a boyfriend or girlfriend “nagging” you on the phone asking – “who are you having a hamburger with or who are you talking to on the phone.”
If it’s really true love they would encourage you to be the best you can be and if that includes going away to college, then so be it. And if it’s really meant to be, they will be there when college is over.
Now that we have this off the list, let’s get down to work.
Creating Your Top 10 College List
Not all colleges are created equal and your dreams are unique as your goals. So to help you pick the right college academically and athletically here are a few simple things that will help.
If you have not created a list of possible colleges, you should -- it will help you focus your search on colleges that are a great fit both academically and athletically. To make this easy, start by creating a list of your top 10 schools.
As you create your list think about your grades and where you can be viably admitted, the geographic location, size of the school -- urban or rural setting, program of study -- degrees offered, student-services, alumni, and the soccer program.
Try not to make it about the division of play -- instead focus on the overall experience and where you will feel at home for the next four to five years.
Now create a personal ranking system so you can evaluate best fits raking your selected schools based on factors that are important to you, such as a ranking/numbering system with one  being most important and five  being least important.
To illustrate a ranking system I have created a personal profile of my goals and have selected one of my top 10 colleges.
Example State University
Key Factors -- Importance
Program of study -- 2
Admissions Criteria -- 1
Geographic Location -- 3
Size of the School/Campus -- 4
Student Services -- 4
The Soccer program -- 3
Alumni -- 2
Now that I have prioritized ESU -- time to do some research and see if the opportunity is realistic for me to be admitted and play.
Example State University -- Opportunity for me
√ Admissions -- I have a 4.0 with 10 dual college credits, ACT 32
√ Program of study -- I want to study Business Administration
√ Location -- I want a warm climate and it’s in California
√ Size of School/Campus -- Multiple Campus with International Locations
√ Student Services -- Volunteer Center; 12:1 student-teacher ratio
√ Soccer Program -- 3 seniors, 7 juniors, 6 sophomores, 8 frosh.
√ Alumni -- Network of 97,000+
Based on my ranking of importance, this school fits my goal and objective. Now I need to get started.
Step 1 – Apply to Example State University
before January 2016
Set up a task list of requirements that will be needed for admission – essay - letters
Step 2 – Apply to the NCAA Eligibility Center ASAP
Ask high school counselor to send “official” transcripts to the NCAA
Step 3 – Send my player profile to the college coach
Call and follow up – ask questions – invite them to games
Step 4 – Set up an Un-Official Campus Visit – contact admissions and the coach
Let the coach know you will be on campus – talk to students - staff
Step 5 – Obtain an “un-official” high school transcript from my high school
Take a copy for the admission officer to see and have on file
Step 6 – Check out the soccer games available online
Learn about their style of play, read the coach’s bio -- do your homework.
Step 7 – Research Alumni online and find out more
Talk with Alumni if possible and learn more about the school
Step 8 – Research Scholarships available at ESU.
Identify scholarships available to make paying for college more affordable
Step 9 – Research the faculty and staff in my chosen area
Speak with them about the required course work and opportunity
Step 10 – Request more information from ESU
Find out as much as you can about the college
Step 11 – Obtain letters of recommendation as required by the college
As the high school counselor – teachers – soccer coach for a letter
Step 12 –Submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
Be sure to ask about Early Decision dates! And remember college soccer is a 90-day experience and then you train the rest of the year.
If you are admitted to the college of your dreams, playing soccer and you get injured and the doctor tells you that your playing days are over, make sure you still want to attend the college of your dreams and graduate with a meaningful degree.
Remember, long after your playing days have come and gone due to old age, injury or retirement -- your education will last a lifetime!
(Lisa Lavelle is President of The Sport Source, which has been connecting kids to college opportunities since 1989. For more information on The Sport Source’s Official Athletic College Guides, tools, and resources, go to www.TheSportSource.com, whose College Finder MATCHFIT can also be contacted toll free at 866.829.2606.)